Small Business Profile: Kristen Basilo, Owner of Gather Home + Lifestyle
How did you start Gather Home and Lifestyle?
I was previously a visual merchandiser for corporate brands, and you get to a point where you feel like your creativity is overlooked when you’re working for bigger brands like that. I decided that I wanted to try and do something where my own creative vision would be the forefront of what I was doing. That’s sort of where it all got started.
What’s your background?
I actually did go to school for visual merchandising, and while I was in school, I was working as a visual merchandiser for Urban Outfitters. I worked for them for seven years before moving onto Madewell. I was really the last generation to grow up without social media---we didn’t have that until college. So even in high school, I wasn’t interested in anything like what I’m interested in now. I had some mentors at the brand who were really inspiring to me, and that is really where I found my interest in merchandising, and kind of took it from there. I switched majors--I was already going to a liberal arts school--so visual merchandising was something that was offered.
What inspires your work?
I’m inspired by a clean aesthetic and minimal design.
What brought you to Chicago?
College. I grew up around the midwest, so Chicago has always been a home city. My dad’s family lives in Chicago, he was from the city. I went to Columbia College, so that’s how I came here permanently, and I’ve been here every year since I was 18, except for one.
If you weren’t here, where would you be?
California. I really would like to be in California. I have already tried Brooklyn and didn’t care for New York lifestyle, which is why I came back to Chicago. But I really love the pace of California.
How do you spend your free time/how do you take time for yourself?
Sometimes it is hard to take time for yourself. It is hard to separate your work life from personal life, especially when you’re working in a small business where you really are the business. So it is really easy to get sucked back into work when you are working by yourself. But I like to shop local because I am a local shop, and I like to eat local and try new Chicago places as much as possible. I think that it is small businesses that make up a city and make people want to visit a city or live in a city, so I think that it is really important that we are supporting those businesses.
Why do you think it’s important for creative women to come together and collaborate?
I feel like everybody needs a support system, and creative women, especially those with a focus in some sort of business, can all relate to each other. It is really important for us to share ideas and get inspiration from each other and supporting the process so that woman-owned businesses can be successful.
What is your advice for young creatives?
Stay true to yourself and your creative medium. You will always be best at things that are truly you versus trying to be something or someone that you're not.
How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
I really like minimal interiors. I wanted to do a lifestyle store with that minimal, clean aesthetic, and even inspired by California.
Favorite woman run brands/businesses?
The first woman-owned brand that I was so into was Bleubird, so James McCoy. Now that she is also in a retail business, I feel even more drawn to her.
Your star sign?
I’m kind of a cactus girl. This all goes back to the California-inspired life.
Savory or sweet?